Tag: Instructional Technology

CoE online graduate programs earn high U.S. News rankings for fifth consecutive year

Laptop and coffeeOnline graduate programs in the NIU College of Education continue to perform near the top of the country, according to new rankings released today by U.S. News & World Report.

NIU places fourth (tied with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln) in the current honor roll of 200 schools, earning a fifth consecutive spot among the nation’s Top 5 and its sixth nod overall.

Among the nine other Illinois schools ranked, only the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (tied for 10th) and the University of St. Francis (tied for 29th) are in the Top 50. Ten universities in the Mid-American Conference are ranked, including Buffalo and Ohio, which are among the five institutions tied for 10th.

Dean Laurie Elish-Piper considers the college’s annual recognition as “evidence of our high-quality online graduate programs.”

“Our faculty are at the cutting-edge of designing and delivering online education that is rigorous, engaging and interactive,” Elish-Piper said. “Our faculty, advisers and support staff are available to assist students in our online programs every step of the way so they can be successful in their programs and in their professions.”

The NIU College of Education offers three online master’s degrees within the departments of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment (ETRA) and Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations (LEPF).

•    Educational Research and Evaluation (ETRA)
•    Instructional Technology (ETRA)
•    School Business Management (LEPF)

ETRA Chair Wei-Chen Hung heralds a continued and collective effort “attributed to faculty credentials, both academic and specifically for teaching online courses, and student engagement.”

Wei-Chen Hung and Carolyn Pluim (Vander Schee)

Wei-Chen Hung and Carolyn Pluim (Vander Schee)

“One particular highlight this year is that we further enhanced our assessment approach by working closely with Research and Assessment faculty to develop assessment instruments and rubric that help us better prepare our students for job markets,” Hung said.

“We are also in the process of updating our curriculum to integrating emerging practices and technologies in the field.”

Acting LEPF Chair Carolyn Pluim (Vander Schee) calls the six-year streak of U.S. News recognition a “nice salute” to the hard work of students as well as talented faculty, including Patrick Roberts, who chaired the department from 2013 to 2016, and full-time professors and adjunct instructors who bring decades of diverse and practical experience.

“We’re committed to continually improving our modes of delivery, to making sure that our course content is relevant and current and to engaging students in what they need to know as school business officials,” Pluim said. “We also have a fabulous relationship with the Illinois Association of School Business Officials that helps us to recruit top students to the program.”

U.S. News & World Report began collecting data on online programs in 2012 – NIU made the “honor roll” that first year – on the belief that “online learning is becoming integral to all types of education, including higher education, and that consumers are hungry for information related to online degrees.”

Its rankings make no distinction between not-for-profit and for-profit sectors.

Rankings are based on five categories, which are weighted: student engagement (35 percent), student services and technology (20 percent), admissions selectivity (15 percent), faculty credentials and training (15 percent) and peer reputation (15 percent).



ETRA’s Jason Rhode honored among nation’s ‘technologists, transformers, trailblazers’

Jason Rhode

Jason Rhode

Jason Rhode, an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment, has been named among the nation’s “Top 30 Technologists, Transformers & Trailblazers” by the Center for Digital Education.

The distinction honors “education and technology leaders across America who are transforming the education landscape through the use of digital tools.”

Selections were based on efforts “to improve education through effective implementation of technology-rich solutions; their impact on student outcomes; and their overall initiative, creativity and leadership skills.”

“Helping faculty to be successful with their students is one of my greatest joys,” Rhode told the Center for Digital Education. “Often it involves using digital technology, but the technology is never the end game; it’s a tool to enhance the learning experience.”

top30Rhode, who is also director of the NIU Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center, began teaching courses in ETRA in the fall of 2013.

He has been invited to attend a special gathering of technology leaders, scheduled Dec. 5 and 6 in Salt Lake City, to receive his award.



Alumni Profile: Anwer Al-Zahrani

DeKalb winters can be difficult for anyone to get used to, but for Anwer Al-Zahrani, it was especially tough. In his home country, Saudi Arabia, temperatures rarely dip below freezing, even on the coldest of days.

Fortunately, Al-Zahrani arrived at NIU in 2010 by way of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where he completed a master’s degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). His time in the Keystone State helped him acclimate to what he would experience at Northern.

Despite the weather, Al-Zahrani’s decision to pursue his doctorate in instructional technology at NIU was, in the end, an easy one to make.

“It took me about nine months to research doctoral programs both in the United States and in other countries. I was accepted into a number of programs, but the reputation of Northern and especially of the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment [ETRA] was a strong factor for convincing me to come to DeKalb,” he said.

In addition to a master’s degree in TESOL, Al-Zahrani had previously earned a bachelor’s degree in English linguistics, literature and translation. By coming to NIU, he hoped to merge his knowledge of language learning with technology, ultimately to help his employer, the Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu, Jubail Colleges and Institutes Sector (RCJY JCIS), integrate technology into its teaching, learning and training programs.

Anwer is now an assistant professor at RCJY JCIS, which includes five institutions of higher learning – three in Jubail Industrial City, located on the Arabian Gulf, and two in Yanbu Industrial City, located on the Red Sea. He is also a member of JCIS’s E-Learning Project Committee, which seeks to expand the country’s online teaching capabilities.

During his years at NIU – he graduated in summer 2015 with a doctorate in instructional technology – Anwer earned a reputation for hard work and participation in department initiatives such as ETRA’s annual Learn-IT Conference. Along the way he received a number of honors, including the University’s Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant Award and its Outstanding Student Contribution to International Education Award. He also found time to co-found NIU’s Saudi Student Association and was a member of both the Phi Beta Delta Honor Society for International Scholars and the Golden Key International Honor Society.

“Anwer is one those rare leaders who is a model of reasoned discourse, compassion and purposeful action that improves the working relationship of his community,” said ETRA’s Wei-Chen Hung, who in addition to being department chair also sat on Al-Zahrani’s dissertation committee.

“He became fascinated with the problem of how technology may be used to support intercultural team learning and developed an impressive and deep understanding of the theory and necessary methodology to explore cross-cultural work. He is a nurturing facilitator among his fellow students, as well as a source of intelligent insights into the complications of cross-cultural team work.”

About 35 percent of ETRA’s students are international.

As a graduate teaching assistant, Al-Zahrani taught online courses for five years, an experience that he says helped crystalize his thoughts about how to share with his Saudi colleagues the knowledge and experiences he was gaining at NIU.

“Ever since joining the instructional technology program, I had envisioned future partnerships [between the CoE and JCIS] that would help foster learning and training processes in Saudi Arabia.”

During a visit last fall, in fact, Al-Zahrani and Hung discussed collaborative initiatives and identified several research and development opportunities that would be worth exploring. One immediate opportunity would be to have COE and RCJY CIS faculty collaborate on curriculum development for the RCJY CIS industry-training program. The goal is to promote technology-integrated yet cultural-relevant teaching pedagogies that can support students in acquiring occupational skills in a meaningful way.



College of Education online graduate program ranked No. 5

best-online-programsFor the fourth consecutive year, U.S. News & World Report has ranked the NIU College of Education’s online graduate program among the country’s best.

The COE program was ranked No. 5 out of a field of 188 competing programs offered by institutions across the country, including 10 in Illinois.

Only one of those, the University of Illinois – Urbana/Champaign, at No. 7, ranked among the top 50. Mid-America Conference schools listed include Ball State University at No. 11 and Central Michigan University at No. 17.

“For U.S. News to have ranked the College of Education’s online graduate programs in the top five every year for the last four is a significant achievement,” said Laurie Elish-Piper, acting chair of the NIU College of Education. “It’s gratifying to have our online program recognized for its excellence. It affirms the high quality of our faculty, staff and curriculum, and highlights the career success our students go on to have.”



College of Education offers two new Ph.D. programs

The NIU College of Education recently has been approved to begin offering two new Ph.D. programs. The first, the Ph.D. degree in Instructional Technology, is offered through the college’s Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment (ETRA); the second, the Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision, is offered through the Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education (CAHE).

diploma-309947_1280Both Ph.D. degrees replace existing Ed.D. degrees in their respective disciplines.

“The reason we decided to offer the Ph.D. in Instructional Technology is to further strengthen ETRA’s position as a leader in instructional technology, research and scholarship,” said Wei-Chen Hung, ETRA’s chair.

“Our Ed.D. degree was already heavily focused on research, and as the national trend in instructional technology is toward research, we felt the Ph.D. would be more beneficial to our students,” he said, adding that the addition of the Ph.D. will help improve the research, theoretical, and practical preparation of the graduates, especially those seeking future careers in academia, public education, government, and in the business and not-for-profit sectors

The decision to convert to a Ph.D. degree in counselor education and supervision was driven by the desire for the degree that better reflects the curriculum. The doctoral program was redesigned several years ago to integrate a stronger research component, which is more reflective of the Ph.D. degree, according to CAHE Chair Suzanne Degges-White. “A CACREP-accredited Ph.D. is now the gold standard in the field,” she said. “In fact, we look for the Ph.D. here in CAHE when we are looking to hire new faculty.”

Like ETRA’s new degree, the Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision was years in the making, involving the department’s entire faculty. “It took a lot of people – and a lot of time – to get to where we are now,” Degges-White said, “but our Ph.D. is an extremely rigorous degree that reflects much more than a traditional Ed.D. Our students, when they leave here, will be well prepared to become leaders in the field, effective supervisors and educators, and excellent researchers.”

For more information about the Ph.D. degree in Instructional Technology, please contact ETRA’s academic advisor Karen Wentworth-Roman at kwoodworth@niu.edu or 815-753-9321.

For more information about the Ph.D. degree in Counselor Education and Supervision, please contact Jane Rheineck at jrheineck@niu.edu or 815-753-8722